Cool News To Close Out 2017

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2017 is drawing to a close and, amid tumultuous and deeply concerning times, I'm pleased to be able to report on what I feel are positive/creative milestones for me that, with any luck, may be experienced favorably by others as well.

I'm enjoying a rare experience: getting to listen to two separate, completed new projects at the same time. Both recorded this Fall, both with my great trio (Jared Schonig/drums and Matt Clohesy/bass), both written and produced by yours truly.

First, Arianna Neikrug's upcoming Concord release, title still TBA, recorded in September in NY (New Jersey, actually) then mixed in LA, set for a Spring '18 release. Ten tracks -- gotta say, this turned into an amazing project, very proud of it and of Arianna. She's a very talented, hyper-intelligent young vocalist with her own sound and very strong yet elastic ideas -- probably the most theoretically informed/educated singer I've ever worked with.

Then in October and November we recorded -- at long last -- my tesseterra project for the trio and string quartet -- in this case not just any string quartet but my great friends ETHEL. (Corin Lee/violin, Kip Jones/violin, Ralph Farris/viola, Dorothy Lawson, cello.) 

It's such an exhilarating opportunity -- to work with musicians of this caliber in the studio to shape/craft the actual recording of music that I've been working on for, all told, over five years. Because these players are so good we were able to immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of relaxed focus and intensity. Over four days we explored each arrangement more and more deeply, able to attend to details/nuances that are elusive in a live show.

I also have to mention that Yamaha provided an amazing instrument for both these projects -- actually the same piano for both -- a CF6 that I'm in love with and is an aural "star" on these recordings. The CF6 is the 7' version of Yamaha's CFX, the current "flagship" 9' concert grand. This particular piano just sings! It's hard to put into words how amazing it is to play; each note's tone is so focused, so rich -- it's immediately noticeable when you hear it. Thank you Yamaha!

Then came the immense professional and personal pleasure of mixing with legendary engineer James Farber. Mixing with James was yet another beautiful opportunity to learn by working with a master of their craft. James mixes on an analog desk -- of course using Pro Tools but with Flying Faders and real hardware for compression/effects/processing, etc. I have to say, despite having had great experiences with doing all my recent projects in the fully digital realm, the sound James gets with "old school" methods -- fully integrated with modern systems but "old school" none the less -- is simply the best.

It's amazing to finally hear this music so beautifully played and recorded/mixed. Some of the selections (Georgia On My Mind, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic) have been performed frequently for several years, others (Blackbird, Suite:Judy Blue Eyes) (that's right, Crosby, Stills & Nash) are quite new. But all are intricate arrangements and, as mentioned, it's almost impossible to achieve anywhere near flawless renditions in a live setting without the benefit of weeks of touring (hoping for that, BTW.)

Whereas in the studio, perfectionism -- if not outright perfection -- is a realistic mindset.

Let's just say that it's close enough for me to be really happy.

As for release date we don't know that just yet; we just recorded it and I'm working with my excellent manager, Gail Boyd, to ally ourselves with the right label to get this out there -- happy to say there are already some interested parties, we'll keep you posted.

Another very happy development: this past April's debut performance of tesseterra at the Green Mill in Chicago has been included in the Chicago Tribune's best jazz performances of 2017, along with Tony Bennett, Cassandra Wilson and Vijay Iyer among others -- honored to be in such company. Howard Reich writes: "Hobgood has been creating a musical profile of his own . . . never more dramatically than on this night, when Hobgood played the world premiere of tesseterra, his alluring project for jazz trio and string quartet."

All in all I feel optimistic about 2018 and beyond -- not necessarily an easy thing to feel these days but there it is. In that hopeful spirit -- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year to all!

 Laurence with ETHEL Quartet

Laurence with ETHEL Quartet

Sharon ReavesComment